Explorations of the Inevitable – Part I

iStock_000005194514XSmallAs an active entrepreneur and investor, from time to time I step back and review the meta-trends that will drive entrepreneurial success in the near future.

There are certain inexorable trends that drive social and economic change, and those are the trends that we must remain aware of as we evaluate and develop new ventures.

1) Demographics is destiny. And the graying of America is the 800 pound gorilla for the foreseeable future.

These are 20 and 30 year trends that take decades to develop and arrive with the surety of a tidal wave.

What does it mean when 24% or 74 million Americans are currently over 55 with that number increasing dramatically for the next 20 years as the Boomers hit their 60s and 70s?

The rapid vacating of enormous numbers of senior technical and executive leadership positions as Boomers retire is already rippling through some industries. In the oil and gas industry, this has been dubbed “The Great Crew Change” and is causing disruption.

What kind of opportunities do these represent for the entrepreneur?

The talent and experience vacuum almost certainly means a great opportunity for technical consulting and staffing firms that are able to smooth out the jagged generational change by providing senior consultants on demand to get projects done. By sharing scarce expertise across multiple clients, these firms will be able to clean up while filling an important, emerging market need. (This is one of my current bets.)

And what about firms that help keep retired and semi-retired experts available to their former employers to help with especially thorny issues through the use of remote video conferencing and collaboration technologies that allow retirees to stay out of the workforce while continuing to provide crucial information and expertise in exchange for extra income?

That’s only the most obvious opportunity. There must be many others.

2) Massive uptick in medical and health opportunities as the Boomers hit 65 and the diseases of old age emerge.

On a related note, as a population ages, the many “diseases of old age” emerge. The boomer generation has the wealth and political clout to get the care they need and want. Who is going to provide it and make a fortune?

Regardless of whether the US ends up with some form of universal health care, the opportunities in caring for the boomers will be enormous. That’s just basic math. They’re not getting any younger and their cohort isn’t getting any smaller for a long time. And, as we all know, health care costs have been increasing disproportionately to other economic changes for years.

Better management, new  business models and deployment of new technology to further reduce costs will become essential as demand on the system grows.

Providing more affordable care and treatment alternatives have already emerged as important trends. Physician’s assistants, senior nurse practitioners, and other non-MD service providers are filling in the gaping holes.

Tracking and funding outcome-based care is on the horizon.  The requirement for electronic medical records, telemedicine and better remote monitoring and prevention technologies will certainly represent enormous entrepreneurial opportunities.

3) The increasing demand for ongoing treatment of diabetes and other related chronic diseases.

Face it: The diabetes epidemic is with us for a generation. We have Boomers hitting old age at the same time that we have children, teenagers and young adults with unprecedented levels of obesity and Type II diabetes. And the market is responding to this trend.

First, there are the medical innovations – the insulin delivery devices, monitoring and testing systems, circulatory improvement products – all hardware, software and communications.

Then there are the “lifestyle” products including magazines, clubs and support groups.

Finally, there are the prevention and management products, including special diets, camps, educational products, seminars, training, etc. The list is endless.

And we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. As the current upcoming generation of children try to absorb the massive corn syrup surplus produced by our economy and subsidized by our government, the epidemic is only going to grow.

This is Part I of a series of articles launching our Explorations of the Inevitable series.

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This blog is dedicated to providing advice, tools and encouragement from one entrepreneur to another. I want to keep this practical and accessible for the new entrepreneur while also providing enough sophistication and depth to prove useful to the successful serial entrepreneur. My target rests somewhere between the garage and the board room, where the work gets done and the hockey stick emerges.

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